Vicia villosa. Hardy Annual. This nitrogen fixer is a lanky and sprawling, but versatile legume that is fairly tolerant of acid soils and light shade. It can be mowed down in spring to supply good mulch. Hardy to Zone 4: -34°C (-30°F). 500g covers approximately 145 m2 (1,560 ft²). Sow Hairy Vetch cover crop seeds from early March to mid-April, and again August to mid-September.
NOTE: Hairy Vetch seeds are toxic to chickens, so plant out of the way of foraging flocks or cut the vetch while it is just flowering.
The roots of this hardy annual extend deeply into the soil, improving porosity and drainage, and fixing nitrogen as they grow. The tops are lanky and sprawling, and can be cut in spring to provide an excellent mulch. Continue reading below for information on how to grow hairy vetch from seed.
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Sow vetch as early as the ground can be worked, and on into late spring. Sow again in late summer for a fall crop.
Sow seeds 5-10mm (¼-½") deep.
For nitrogen fixation, allow plants to reach the flowering stage. We recommend cutting the abundant vegetation and leaving it on the soil as a mulch against weeds, to retain moisture, and provide insect habitat. Otherwise, work the long vines and their roots into the soil with a garden fork.